Best HO track?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Mike Kieran, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. Mike Kieran

    Mike Kieran Port Able Railway Company

    Jan 13, 2011
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    I'm going to build my first layout soon. It will only be a tabletop layout or small shelf switcher. I want code 83 or lower (I would prefer code 70 track)What brand of track do you recommend for trouble free installation and operation.
  2. gbwdude

    gbwdude Member

    Jun 15, 2010
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    Since this is your first layout, I would recommend that you would start off with code 83. It's a popular size of rail and they have a lot more realistic sized turnouts available compared to code 100. The biggest issues with going to a smaller size rail is electrical flow and operation of your equipment. The smaller size rail doesn't carry the amps that the bigger size rail can, and that's extremely important if you expand your layout so you'll need less DCC boosters (or cabs if your old school and use DC). The operations have to do with how old some of your equipment is, if you're running old AHM or Rivarossi equipment with the "pizza cutter" flanges you'll have issues on rail smaller than and still sometimes on code 83. I'm sure Mr. Nelson will throw his two cents in about code 70 and smaller rail at some point, his railroad uses it and has told me that if he were to rebuild his railroad he'd have code 83 rail and 70 on the sidings.

    If your layout is going to be primarily used for photography and dioramas, then go with code 70 and smaller. If operation is what your primary purpose is, then I'd suggest code 83.

    As for brands there are many good ones available. Atlas has been around since model railroading has been a hobby and makes great quality track and their line of Snap-Trak is good for newcomers. Micro-Engineering and Shinohara are also great brands, but those are the more of the top shelf quality and price.


  3. toptrain1

    toptrain1 Member

    Jan 2, 2007
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    Best track

    Atlas code 100 brass, stapled, fiber ties.
  4. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    Dec 15, 2008
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    Absolutely Frank! I had forgotten how much fun that fiber tie stuff was. Well it was cheap, so my friends and I used lots of it to build big railroads quickly. later, when we did scenery, and tried to ballast it. the fiber ties expanded when they got we, and never got back in gauge, so we had to tear it all out and replace it. Man was that fun!

    Tyler is right, I built my railroad trying to get the light rail look I had seen in historical photos of logging railroads I used code 70 for the main and code 55 on the sidings. My locomotives ran better on Dr Tom's RR which had code 100 rail.

    the rail size compromise is affected by the size of the equipment you are most likely to run. code l00 rail looks way big under a 25 ton shay, but under a 180 ton behemoth the oversize rail will be less noticeable.

    For visual effect , one can and should mix rail sizes, with heavier rail on mainlines, and lighter rail in yards, and branch lines. For pure operation, I'd go with the largest rail size you can tolerate the looks of.

    I hand lay most of my track, purchasing commercial track, one must consider what you need for a specific plan, and what is easily available.

    I reaally like Peco track, the flextrack is very flexible, and flows easily without kinking. I like the power routing turnouts especially the electrofrog versions that do not have dead spots at the frogs to cause locomotives that are small , or have electrical pick up issues to stall on the frog, they take some extra care in capping the rails to avoid shorts. I also like the sprung points on the switches that allow their manual use without ground throws.

    Bill Nelson